In my earlier article Facilitating Social Change Through Film-making; It’s Happening! I discussed how films can inspire social change. Social entrepreneurs especially can use storytelling as a powerful tool to bring stories of impact to limelight and encourage positive action from stakeholders. I take this theme further in this article.
I believe it’s time that independent documentary filmmakers, emerging media artists and humanitarian photographers who collectively form the storytelling community are engaged and given the resources to identify, create and promote stories of social impact. The question is who should provide the funds.
Storytelling Is Not Inexpensive
Storytellers do what presentations and reports cannot do- They tell a story. The importance of storytelling in showcasing and accelerating social impact cannot be overemphasized. Nonfiction multimedia films that tell real stories of positive change, social innovation and social struggle are a powerful medium to instantly and emotionally connect with the target audience. Their ability to generate attention and credibility for an impact project exceeds any other medium be it an article in a popular magazine or numbers in an annual report.
Filmmaking is not an inexpensive enterprise. It requires professional equipment, shooting time in the field, post-production & editing and a sharp creative ideation. Documentary or social impact film projects need to provide for creative fee of the storyteller, travel & logistics of production team and costs associated with the entire production process. Needless to say these costs vary according to the scope and quality of production expected.
Here are some examples of critically acclaimed impact films
Impact Organizations Should Support Storytellers
In the social entrepreneurship ecosystem, impact enabling organizations like impact investors, philanthropic trusts and grantmaking institutions play the role of patrons. They have access to and can mobilize economic and social resources for social entrepreneurs and changemakers. Sponsoring impact based films around the work of their entrepreneurs and offering these films a wide reach to a network of policy makers, experts and influencers can prove to be tremendously beneficial to the entrepreneurs. These films can help entrepreneurs raise funds or recruit talent later in their journey.
Doniece Sandoval, 2017 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards
Solving the World’s Biggest Problems
Philanthropy organizations generally follow a funding philosophy in that they support specific social causes they hold dear. Take for example the following statement from Tata Trusts:
Through grant-making, direct implementation and co-partnership strategies, the Trusts support and drive innovation in the areas of natural resources management; education; healthcare and nutrition; rural livelihoods; enhancing civil society and governance; media, arts, crafts and culture; and diversified employment.
Films that celebrate, showcase or explain a philanthropic organization’s work and the impact that it has created in its focus areas can build strong credibility and brand recognition. They can attract smart innovators and problem-solvers to the organization who can be its potential grantees.
Village Capital – Strategizing for Scale: People and Partnerships
Philanthropy organizations can use impact films as formidable levers for policy change and lobbying for social causes with the government. Films based on advocating government intervention in a particular area of social significance or on public awareness about a social issue can be very powerful tools.
Here’s How Impact Organizations Can Support Storytellers
There are 2 ways in which Philanthropic organizations can support impact storytellers.
This requires having an internal team to identify, assess and execute impact film projects with filmmakers. This approach is most suitable for short projects that have a limited scope and budgets, usually centered around the cohort of grantees that the philanthropy organization works with.
Partnership with Film Institutes
Skoll Foundation is a well known name in the global social entrepreneurship space. It has tied up with Sundance Institute to initiate Stories of Change. Through this partnership Skoll extends grants to independent filmmakers to create documentaries stories on social change taking place around us. In addition to funding the creation of new projects, the initiative brings together leaders in independent film-making and social entrepreneurship at key gatherings globally, including the Skoll World Forum (SWF), the Sundance Film Festival, and intensive workshops at the Sundance Resort. This is a tremendous testimony to the fact that storytelling through filmmaking is a necessary tool in the social impact delivery life cycle.
Ford Foundation supported JustFilms funds social justice storytelling. According to them:
The projects and people we support inspire imaginations, disrupt stereotypes, and help transform the conditions that perpetuate injustice and inequality.
Philanthropy organizations in India can collaborate with reputed film institutes like the FTII, Delhi Film Institute, Asian Academy of Film & Television to name a few to sponsor and support impact filmmakers with radical ideas to bring about social change. This will kickstart and encourage a new genre of nonfiction impact films. Currently no such arrangement exists.
Nonfiction impact filmmakers have an important role to play in bringing the work of social entrepreneurs in public consciousness. They need institutional support to do this and philanthropy organizations are best poised to extend that support.